One of the very best ways to accrue miles for a checking account has been with BankDirect. They offer 100 miles per month per $1,000 you keep with them, up to $200,000. So this basically means $1,000 deposited with them accrues 1,200 AAdvantage miles per year. I value AAdvantage miles at 1.8 cents each, so that’s a return of 2.16% tax fee (making it closer to 3% for many people). For a balance in a checking account that was completely flexible, that’s an amazing return, in my opinion. Basically, a balance of $200,000 would get you 240,000 AAdvantage miles per year. That’s more than enough for two business class tickets to Asia.
Back in November of 2011 they added a $12 monthly service fee to accounts, and even with that it was still a great program. Unfortunately they’ve announced a huge change which kicks in on June 1, 2013, and greatly cuts the earnings rates for balances of over $50,000.
Starting on June 1, the first $50,000 deposited will continue to earn 100 miles per $1,000 deposited with them, though above that you’ll only earn 25 AAdvantage miles per $1,000. So while a $50,000 balance will continue to accrue 60,000 AAdvantage miles (with $144 in annual fees), a balance of $200,000 will now only accrue a total of 105,000 AAdvantage miles.
So this definitely sucks, though I can’t really say I’m surprised. Despite the 75% incremental reduction in earnings for larger deposits, you’re still probably better off keeping “liquid” cash in a BankDirect checking account earning some miles, given the lack of alternatives.